Saturday, 18 April 2015

Take a walk... with The Housemaid's Daughter

The Housemaid's Daughter is set in Cradock, a small town in the Karoo region of South Africa famous for its wide-open spaces and dramatic scenery.

In 2013, I was delighted to be part of an inaugural walking tour around the town during the Karoo Writers Festival. We listened to extracts from the works of Olive Schreiner, Iris Vaughan, Guy Butler and myself as we strolled the historic streets just above the Great Fish river. Now you can take the same tour to get your own perspective on the town's literary heritage. This venture is the brainchild of Cradock's Schreiner Museum and NELM (The National English Literary Museum) in Grahamstown, who are printing a walking tour guide.

Do you remember The Story of an African Farm? This is the groundbreaking book by Olive Schreiner, one of South Africa's most famous writers who put the Karoo on the international map when it was published in 1883. She lived in Cradock as a child, and the beautifully-presented Schreiner museum honours her memory and provides a fascinating stop on the tour. Then follow Guy Butler's memoir, Karoo Morning, as you go along Bree street, wind past an exquisite church or two - including the one built as a perfect replica of London's St Martins-in-the-Fields - and into Market Square, the setting for many scenes in my novel. From the Square, look across the river towards the railway station, where Ada waves goodbye to Phil as he leaves for the war, and later her daughter, Dawn, bound for the brights lights.

"Johannesburg," said Dawn to the man in the ticket office. "One way."
I stared at the pigeons in the rafters.
Then I felt Phil again, the warmth of his hug.
I turned to Dawn, who should have been his child, and took her slender body in my arms and held her as I myself had once been held.

A blast on the whistle and then the train struck out for Johannesburg where there was gold in the ground and - God protect her - all manner of trouble above it.

If you're in Cradock one day, take a walk...

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